Manit Luecha, former director, Chainat Rice Seed Center, Chainat, Thailand,
Patchanee Chaiyawat, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Rice Research Center, Thailand, and
K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
Two and a half years ago in March 2010, we visited with Mr Vichian Insawang who was farming his 8 ha in Suphan Buri that he inherited. He had been suffering crop losses for 3 consecutive seasons caused by planthopper outbreaks. Each season he had been spraying cocktails of insecticides 10 times at weekly intervals. He was spending about US$ 400/ha in pesticide purchases and because of the crop losses, have been unable to recover his costs. He had then fallen in debt owing about US$3100 that he had borrowed at 6% interest. He had also received some relief from government compensation of about US$ 440 per ha.
When we visited him again recently, Mr Vichian is happily enjoying harvests of about 5.6 tons/ha and had not had any BPH outbreaks in his fields for the last 4 seasons. He had made significant modifications to his inputs, reducing seed and fertilizer rates and insecticide use – similar to the “three reductions” program in Vietnam. The 3 reduction 3 gains program locally called Ba Giam Ba Tang was funded and widely promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Vietnam through multi media campaigns, radio dramas and TV programs. The program helped farmers reduce insecticide use by as much as 70%, nitrogen fertilizer by 7% and seed rates by 10% and reduced the vulnerability of subsequent rice crops to planthopper outbreaks. A report by the International Trade Studies Center at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) in October 2010 attributed Vietnam rice production success to the implementation of the “Three Reductions, Three Gains” policy.
The seed rate he now uses is about 125 kg/ha from 156 kg/ha, a reduction of 20%. Similarly he reduced his nitrogen use by 35% from 240 kg/ha to 156 kg/ha. While he used to spray insecticides 10 times a season at weekly intervals, he now sprays only 3 times at 21, 41 and 61 days after sowing, a reduction of 70%. He used to plant only one variety, Pathum Tani 1, he now plants 3 varieties, Chainat 31, 41 and 47. Mr Vichian and many farmers in the village seem to have learned to cope with the BPH outbreak threat by changing varieties, reducing their seed, fertilizer and insecticide inputs. After hearing about the “stop cypermethrin and abamectin campaign” they have also refrained from using these products especially since the local pesticide retailer does not carry them anymore. Although Vichian’s farm had been free from hopper outbreaks, his three reduction practices can still be modified further to reduce the fields’ vulnerability to BPH invasions. For instance his first insecticide spray on 21 days after sowing can safely be removed and his seed and fertilizer rates can probably be reduced a further 10%.
Some farmers in the village are maintaining their high inputs and spray routines and relying on mystical forces. They have obtained a yellow flag blessed by a monk and placed it in their fields lighting some joss sticks and saying a prayer. While most farmers we talked said that they do not believe that the blessed flag will keep their fields safe, some do. Hanging an amulet over their fields as a protection had also been observed.